Nov 25, 2013

Ghosts, Specters, Spooks, seances and necromancy

"White Lady" apparition, artistic  depictio n

“Ghosts and the supernatural have intrigued and terrified mankind since the dawn of history. Some people simply dismiss both as being nothing more than mere superstition or the products of an overactive imagination. However, anyone who has ever witnessed a ghostly manifestation or unexplained supernatural phenomena firsthand knows differently” 

 Dunwich, Gerina, “A witches  guide  to ghosts and supernatural”  ( page 14th )

"The word “Ghost” implies that the  dead soul maintains a presene in the realm of the living , or perhaps refuses to leave”

Illes, Judika “The Encyclopedia   of Spirit”

“The Spiritualistic movement has rendered an  incalculable service in bridging the gulf that used to separate the living from the dead. The fact of   survival  of bodily death, has been established beyond any possible question by any reasonable person who  will take to acquaint  himself with the evidence.

Dion Fortune

Dark,  late autumn,  and winter nights are ideal time to  work on contacting ghosts and learning about them. In Celtic culture,  October was the last month of the year, and thus was associated  death,  and ancestral working.

Ghosts are much like people, extremely variable in terms of character and  behavior.  Ghosts can be useful source of information, and powerful allies and guides, indeed.  But they may need help too. Don’t be fooled by all the new-age-wannabe-ghost whisperers, many are extremely dangerous, and much like ( we have ) among the living, criminals and offenders, and thus You should not “respect them and talk to them”, least You have death-wish or at least desire to end up in mental hospital or injured.

The veil between our and the world(s) beyond will be thin and easy to transcend in just a few days, from the time when I’m writing this, Samhain , Halloween, All Hallow’s eve(n) is  at the doors.  The day when the dead roam the Erathly  plane, freely . And while You are , all cozy and warmly snuggled in Your soft sofa,  watching horror movies and eating candy, mind that someone unseen, might just be watching alongside. Maybe even laughing to all the silly Hollywood misconceptions J    

Ghosts and Spirits, and ethics of Necromantic and spiritualist practices

There is a difference between a spirit and a ghost. Simply and plainly put, most of the spirits were never human to begin with, and they very few that were transcended after death to something else. Ghost on the other hand  is a non-corporeal  form of humans. Human being that had, by death “shed” it’s flesh.   Here is Merriam Webster’s dicitionary definition:

“A disembodied soul; especially :  the soul of a dead person believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world or to appear to the living in bodily likeness”  [1]

Other than this  meaning, which is what we are interested  in, here, it can also mean variety of things, such as small trails or remains of  something, or can even be used to refer to an erythrocyte that had lost it’s hemoglobin.  

The very term itself comes from old   English “gast”, which was probably imported from High German “geist” , both of course signifying  a , ghost, specter, apparition.

It’s also important to differ two types of ghosts that exist, one of which,  is actually not a ghost at all. There are energetic/energy imprints, in shape, form  of the deceased, even mimicking some of  their actions, or “reenacting” their death. These are just that, energy imprints, or “energy carryovers” [2] , they do not possess consciousness or intelligence,  they are oblivious to their surroundings , and often  repetitive in terms of their actions.   The other type are actual ghosts, so as we said, disembodied souls  of human beings,  with all the possible consciousness, able to perceive and interact with their environment and the living.  While colloquially, in mundane speech is fine to  refer to both  aforementioned as “ghost/s”, in occultism only the latter is seen as ghost.  It’s also probably wise to note here, that even though I’ve  been  referring ( throughout previous bits of text )  to ghosts as entities which were once human  , ghosts can, obviously come from animals, and in very rare cases even plants.

Spirits, on the other hand are creatures that lack physical body, but were not human, or If they once have been, they’ve transcended the ghost status after their death. The fine example of the  last would be Lillith, who was according to one Hebrew legends first Adam’s wife , but later she became a demon. So “spirit” in mundane terms would include any non-corporeal entity in it’s broadest meaning, often ghosts included , but in occultism , when we use “spirit”  we refer  to non-corporeal entity which was not human, like angels, demons, fairies, djinns,  elementals    and so on. Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition of spirits is as follows:


    :  an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms


    :  a supernatural being or essence: as


a capitalized : HOLY SPIRIT

b : SOUL 2a

c :  an often malevolent being that is bodiless but can become visible; specifically : GHOST 2

d :  a malevolent being that enters and possesses a human being “ [3]


Once  again, in terms of occultism, anything but  what’s listed under 2. b:  in the above description may apply to the word “spirit”.

The art of communication with the spirits for purpose of gaining information is called “necromancy”, or the art of divination using the dead souls, or ghosts.

According to  Rosemary Ellen Gulley

The magical conjuration of the dead for the purpose of DIVINATION. Because they are no longer bound

by the Earth plane, the spirits of the dead are believed to have access to information beyond the capabilities of the

living. Conjured spirits are asked about the future and where to find buried treasure.”  [4]

Futhermore, R.E. Guilley explains:

There are two types of necromancy: raising a corpse itself to life, and summoning the spirit of the corpse. The second type is more common.” [5]

One must understand here, that even necromantic rituals  that were intended   to raise  the corpse , meant summoning an entity, most often ghost which once was a resident of body in question, to inhabit the body once again. The difference is purely practical, it was easier to understand the ghost who inhabited , albeit temporally a physical body and could thus speak, and even gesticulate, and moreover, such rituals had a higher rate of success. Body was a material, beaconing and grounding point.

These practices are most likely those addressed in Bible,  in the  Exodus 22:18

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” ( King James’  Version )

Do not allow a sorceress to live” ( New International Version ) [6]


Even the second version is based on King James’  translation, which is proved not only to be fallacious  in many places, and even suspected to be intentionally translated as such.  Here the word “chaspech” ( Hebrew word translated as witch ) could as well be translated also as poisoner,  and necromancer .  In the Biblical times, people who did Necromancy, did it properly, often undergoing week or more worthy of preparatory rituals, some of which required grave profaning,  stealing bones and clothes,  or even eating the flesh of dogs ( in Greek Necromantic traditions for example ) , and other, and were thus considered very sinful and bad. Ill intentioned and misinformed people often claim how Bible condemns the attempt to communicate with the deceased, but  this is however plainly put misleading. It’s much more likely that the Bible was condemning the methods used. Many serious,  practicing Necromancers of modern day will readily admit they often invoke demonic spirits, to help them evoke ghosts, and will explain how they often use actual bones, including skulls in their rituals, perform in graveyards and so on.  Christianity views such practices as profaning, as well as most common reasons behind them (  obtaining buried treasures, finding out the future ) profaning and sinful.  In Christianity, the dead ones are treated with respect and take important place in ritualistic practices of Christians. So it’s not what is being done , but rather how, which is problematic from Christian perspective.

Bible also speaks of the witch of Endor, who had conjured prophet  Samuel’s spirit according to king Saul’s request, which ended up with spirit foretelling the death of king Saul.
(1Sa 28:20-25)

It was widely believed that Edward Kelly, and possibly Dr. Dee engaged in necromancy and were supposedly prolific necromancers, but Kelly never wrote about this in his diaries. Eliphas Levi ( XIX )  however, well documented his own attempts of necromancy and gave extremely elaborate instructions on how to perform evocation of the ghost of the  beloved dead in his “Transcendental magick” .

A séance is  an ethically  more  acceptable form of necromancy, even though the mediums who most often organize,  and hold séances will call such practices a part of “spiritualism”. Technically speaking, as You probably   already know, a séance is way to contact and obtain information from the spirit of the dead, hence it is a method  o f necromancy.  In essence spiritualism is a religion, but certainly not one that “invented” séance.  

It’s commonly held that the organized practice of séances came to be , as an invention of Fox sisters ( Katy, Margaretta, and Leah Fox )  circa  1848th year, which  developed a code-like way of communicating with an entity that haunted their family house in Hydesville (Wayne county, NY ) . This is also commonly seen as   time when the modern spiritualist movement has been established.  [7]  At that point,  sisters were kids that mimicked  the  rapping sounds entity  had been creating for a while.  In doing so, they, along with their  mother,  noticed they can use these sounds to communicate with the entity,   and even get simple YES, or NO answers, depending on the number of rapping sounds  made ( odd and even ).  The very method is often used even today to get answers from ghosts and spirits, who can make noise and create other kind of sound. 

Some famous mediums, who were renowned for their mediumship abilities,  are  Fox Sisters ( Katy, Margaretta and Leah ),   Edward Kelly, Apollonyus of Tyana , Moses   ( 1839 - 1892 ) a physical medium, Lees  the kid who channeled Prince Albert , Daniel Dunglas Home  ( XIX century ) etc.


Ghost and spirits behavior
They can appear naked, although in most cases they are dressed in   specific set of clothes, and they don't have to do anything, but    be present to cause fear. Sheets, chain clinging and  all the rest pop culture additions hardly ever happen, If ever at all.  It's not quite clear though  do ghosts enjoy scaring people, but some certainly seem to be   enjoying. 
They feed on the energy of the living, much like energy parasite, only in extremely less amount. The amount of energy they sap is often minute , and simply not enough to cause any actual harm.

Like with any living person, characters and behavior  of the ghosts  vary greatly. Don’t think for a second that ghosts can not lie, or that they get smarter after death.   Some are kind and helpful,  others are liars, manipulators and users. Experienced practitioners have their Spirit guides* to help them. Rational mind is however the most powerful tool here.  Take what  ghosts say with a grain of salt, and If they suggest You to do silly things, the kind of which in Your right mind You would never do,  simply end communication with such entities. That’s what most authors suggest, anyway. I myself would, and on few occasions have,  banished such entities.  New agers would/might  call that evil, I call that defending myself.

Also beliefs and attitudes people have developed in life, will remain , at least for a while, even after they die. Which means,  ghosts can be biased when they  speak of certain topics,  and their answers can be influenced by what they believe in.

Ghosts who cause material phenomena  to occur, who are angry,  overly persistent or haunting, still may be just all that, and not evil, they might just  baldy need their message  delivered. However in 9 of 10 cases, they are just plainly  ill intentioned  , and dangerous,  and  such entities, in my humble opinion should be banished/vanquished. For even if they just want to communicate there is a line they should never really  cross. Imagine person stalking You on the street to tell You they like You, leaving You flowers,  following and observing You.  Such person does not plan to kill You, but their obsessive behavior  makes    Your life difficult and threatens to evolve into something more dangerous. Same case with ghosts and spirits. If they can not play nice, neither should You, forget about the junk that people who bought too much into “Ghost whisperer” advocate. You are not, and will never be a ghost councilor / psychoanalyst / therapist, for there is no such thing !  Ghosts don’t need You to “guide them into the light” there are all sort of psychopomps  that  do much better job  at it, than humans ever could.

So in essence, ghosts are to be approached cautiously, and treated pretty much the way they treat You, or  at least avoided If they are nasty. Do not try to fix them, this is my friendly advice, or otherwise You may learn the hard way what I explained in the paragraph above.

Ghosts in culture(s)


The reputed presence of Ghosts is a selling  point in many hotels, inns, and bed-and-breakfasts

Illes, Judika  “The Encyclopedia of spirits” 


Belief in the ghosts may very well be, as old as human race itself.  The prehistoric cavemen painted bones of  deceased ones with red paint, which is generally interpreted  by anthropologists and sociologists alike, as an attempt  to ensure that their ghost “survives” and passes into  afterlife.  Egyptian, Ancient Greek and Roman culture had all these extremely elaborate ceremonies and cultic worshiping of ancestors.  Just   read up on Egyptian book of the dead a bit. All these fascinating rituals, that where done to ensure the safe passing of the soul in the afterlife.


 Mummification or embalming,   afterlife amulets, mouth opening,    gifts for  the otherworld etc. Body had to be preserved in a very specific way, tombs had to be build in a very specific way, even  the pyramidion had to be made according to specific guidelines.  Ankh amulets and Scarabs,  and small marble “fayan”  charms/figurine were  left in tombs , all followed with certain invocations and words of power. Failing to do any properly, could mean that the  sould will not end in the afterlife. [8]


Romans held festivities to appease the dead, who were often very feared, and notorious, as they would , according to ancint Roman  belfs , often come back  as Lemures  or Larvae** .  These were the  ghosts of the drowned people ,  executed criminals ,  childless people, or non placated ancestors [9]  in essence very dangerous and volatile souls that feed on energy of the living, haunted their dwellings or even murdering them, or  driving them to suicide.  It is no wonder then, that the whole month of May was  reserved for various exorcism  ceremonies, to banish the angry dead souls , although the 9th, 11th and 13th  of May  were the central points of the festival, called Lemuralia or Lemuria. An illustrative formula, using black beans and banishment of the angry and dangerous ancestral ghosts was described by Ovid:


It was the head of the household who was responsible for getting up at midnight and walking around the house with bare feet throwing out black beans and repeating the incantation, "I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine (haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis.)." nine times. The household would then clash bronze pots while repeating, "Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone “nine times.” [10]


In Slavic cultures,  ghosts  were equally feared and respected, and they were believed to be able to inhabit a tree ( particularly Pyrus tree, or Elder in Balkan peninsula ) , or even a stone and thus render them “shadowed” or inhabited by ghosts. Even the notorious vampires are rather sort of ghosts than actual risen corpses , how the popular media tries to depict them.  In essence they were ghosts that somehow  retained astral and most often ethereal  husk ( body ) after physical death, and even  the astral cord, and would drain blood and energy to sustain their physical bodies. Garlic, Hawthorn and Basil were seen as universal protection agents against  ghosts and vampires, in Slavic cultures, as well as some animal curios , and pretty much no   household would allow themselves to run out of those, particularly during winter and so called “unbaptized  days 

Even spiritual movements and religions which believe in reincarnation have their “ghosts” , such as Preta  , or beings in Naraka , or which some Buddhists, Hindu and also Jain texts speak of.  Pretas are ghosts    that  haunt their  former place of residence, and are often stricken with insatiable hunger for something which is repulsing or disgusting, such as corpses, feces, or even blood. In more “modern” versions it can be virtually any object or person.  They cause illness, bad luck, involuntary possession  and they drain energy.  They are said to enjoy the intoxicants like marijuana, alcohol,  then spit, feces and so  on. [11]


Reverence of the Ancestral ghosts  is one of the cornerstones of Vodoun, and consequently New Orleans Voodoo.  Christian people respect their beloved dead, light candles for them and pray for them.

Modern celebrations of festivals associated with dead and ghosts  are popular even today, such as Halloween, Chinese Ghost month  and  “Dia de los Muertos” or the Day of the Dead in Latin America and  Spain. 


In modern days, ghosts  have became a  prominent part of popular culture, and belief or rather disbelief. According to Gallup, 1/3 of Americans ( 32% ) believes in ghosts, and  it seems how the percentage of people who believe decreases with the age  [12]  . The  modern stories about ghostly haunting and sightings are endless, and in my humble opinion most are fake or fabricated.  And that’s because ghostly haunting have became a profitable tourist beaconing tool. Just read the quotation at the begging of this article section.  They are also frequent motives in literature and movies, such as “The Centerville Ghost”  short story  by Oscar Wilde, or even his novel “The picture of Dorian Gray” , movies such as “The Other’s” ,  “Volver” , “White noise”, “Pulse”,  “Shutter” , then TV shows like “Being human” ,  “Medium”, and even the sappy “Ghost whisperer” , which, while being fun to watch, is not even a remotely accurate about  how people should actually deal with  ghosts.  The Halloween   as a modern day holiday, based  upon old beliefs   serves to even further popularize and use ghosts  as both spiritual, and plainly commercial motif. 


NOTES: This  article  was written and composed by myself, hence If  You wish to use parts of it  elsewhere online, feel free, but add credits :   Shadow of Shadow's magick place ,  or a direct link  to this post 

*In spiritualism Spirit Guides are almost  exclusively ghosts, who make friendly relations with medium and are always around them , particularly when they perform the séances , to guide and advise them, as well as provide certain degree of protection. Not to be confused with  so called “doorkeepers” who allow certain spirits to  pass through during séances or necromantic rituals, and negate “entrance” to others.  In more broad sense ( outside spiritualism, in general occultism ) spirit guide   can be an entity that never was human to begin with, an Angel for example.


** Although   based on Anicent  Roman beliefs,  Larvae,  singular Larva, meaning possessed or  masked, is actually a middleage Latin term rather than ancient,  now seen as;   archaic Latin


[2] “Energy carryover” is a term used by Arthur Myres in his work “The Ghostly Register”
[3] Retrieved from
[4]  from: Guiley Rosemary, Ellen, “Encyclopedia of magic and alchemy” page 215th
[5] As under [4]
[6] Retrieved from;NIV
[7] According to the writings of  Raymond Buckland in his : “Bukland’s book of spirit communication”  ( Llewellyn publications, 2004th ) , chapter III
[8] read more about it here:
[9] According to Judika Illes “The Encyclopedia of Spirits” , page 627th
[10] Retrieved from:
[11] Judika Illes, The “Encyclopedia of spirits”
[12]  Retrieved from ( the numbers ) :

IMAGE CREDITS : First image is from: used here for illustrative purposes without any ill will
Second image is from :  used for illustrative purposes only , edited here  by    me,  without any ill will

No comments: